Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

Fourth Sunday of Advent

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 Matthew 1:18-25

“Joseph, do not be afraid …”

Today’s Gospel passage comes as something of a shock each time we hear it. “Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph, but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit”. We know the background to that statement about Mary, but at the time Joseph did not and he was deeply troubled. He knew the child was not his, yet he did not wish to publicly denounce her but, at the same time, he felt he could not continue with the betrothal and marriage. It was in the midst of this dilemma that Joseph received the message of assurance from the angel. This was God’s doing, and Mary’s child is to be called “Jesus”, the one who is to save his people from their sins. He will also be known as “Emmanuel”, for in him God is with us. Overcoming his doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph “did as the angel commanded him and took his wife to his home”.

After what could seem a shaky start, it was through Joseph that the prophecies were fulfilled: it was he who led Mary to Bethlehem, where the expected Messiah would be born; it was he who took the child and his mother to Egypt to avoid the murderous intent of Herod, and then it was under his lead that the family returned to Nazareth. There in Nazareth Joseph worked as a carpenter, taking full responsibility for the care and protection of his family. It was Joseph, generous, loving and hard-working, faithful to the law of God and to prayer, who provided the wonderful image of a father which deeply influenced the young Jesus.

Both Mary and Joseph had to overcome initial fear. Both were attentive to the word of God and ready to act on it. Both served God in the ordinary rounds of life. That is what God asks of us.